Deaf employees are the focus of gelateria

Entrepreneur Breno Oliveira, 28, has already faced discrimination in job interviews for being deaf. In 2016, he decided to open his own business, an artisanal gelateria in Aracaju (SE), which has 80% of its employees deaf. The ice cream shop is called Il Sordo (The Deaf, in Italian) and earned BRL 900,000 in 2021.

“I was always minimized in interviews, it seemed that I was not capable, many people did not accept my deafness”, recalls the businessman, who previously worked as a Libras (Brazilian Sign Language) instructor.

I participated in several selection processes, but the tests were always in Portuguese and with hearing competitors. For the deaf it is different, we learn Portuguese as a second language, and Libras as the first. Many have difficulty reading and writing. The barrier is real.
Breno Oliveira, entrepreneur and founder of ‘Il Sordo’

family support

With the support of his family and guided by Sebrae (Brazilian Service to Support Micro and Small Enterprises), Oliveira researched entrepreneurship initiatives and enrolled in a course on Italian gelato production (typical creamy ice cream) at a school in São Paulo.

He took a liking to the area and, after cost and investment studies, opened the business in Aracaju and bet on the differential of being a proposal focused on accessibility and inclusion.

“Many people who come for the first time feel an impact, a little fear, shame, but we try to welcome the customer. It’s the same impact that we feel outside, but here we welcome this diversity. , losing fear and learning to communicate better with those who are deaf”, says Oliveira.

Between us, there are no barriers. We are in the same world, and the customers who come here enter our world. Today we are a reference in Brazil in accessibility. And, in this way, we show what the deaf is capable of.
Breno Oliveira

Il Sordo has already been nominated for the Veja-se Award, from Veja magazine, in the Diversity category, and received the certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor — where it is evaluated with the highest grade.


Opened in 2016, the gelateria currently has 11 workers with a formal contract, of whom 9 (82%) are deaf. The two listeners are in the production, while the non-listeners also help to produce and operate the service.

In addition to the head office, the company has two other points of sale in the Sergipe capital, and one more franchised store in Salvador, on Barra beach. With Italian gelato as its flagship (starting price at R$11), it also offers pies, sweets, cupcakes, brownies, popsicles and coffees.

In 2019, before the covid-19 pandemic, Il Sordo earned BRL 1.1 million. After a fall in 2020, basically mitigated by home deliveries, revenue rose again in the second half of last year and closed 2021 at R$900,000.

First job for the deaf

Clerk Lenaldo Silva - Roberto Oliveira/UOL - Roberto Oliveira/UOL

Lenaldo Silva, 26, thanks a customer

Image: Roberto Oliveira/UOL

When the store established itself in the market, Oliveira says that he was very often sought after by deaf people in search of their first job. The messages kept coming.

The deaf came to me saying ‘I want to work’. I never had to advertise a vacancy, a lot of people came looking for a job, distressed, discouraged, without financial conditions. It was an avalanche of people looking for me to have their first job, and little by little we were evaluating, training and hiring new people. Most had never had a formal job.
Breno Oliveira

This is the case of employee Lenaldo Silva, 26. After a one-year internship as a minor apprentice, he spent some time unemployed and only got his first job with a formal contract at Il Sordo.

“Since my first day, I felt very good. And I improved a lot in my life, in my behavior. I gained more confidence, and my financial situation has also improved. I am a father of a boy and I have my responsibilities”, says he, who is in company for four years.

Inclusive and educational environment

Client at 'Il Sordo' - Roberto Oliveira/UOL - Roberto Oliveira/UOL

Customer indicates with his finger the flavor of the chosen gelato

Image: Roberto Oliveira/UOL

The menus and checkout counter at the ice cream shop are personalized: there are more images and they are more interactive.

There is also a TV on the wall, where a video is shown in which basic signs are taught to ask for a sample of ice cream or thank you for the service, for example. “The deaf are very visual”, declares Oliveira.

It was exactly the proposal of the place that made the psychologist Renata Aragão, 29, know about the initiative.

“I’ve been a customer since the beginning. Before I got to know gelato, I got to know the proposal through some friends from the university. The physical space is incredible, and the gelato is very tasty. Libras, and that’s when I started to learn. Here’s a welcome through the look.”

*With the collaboration of Angélica Amorim, Libras interpreter

About Yadunandan Singh

Born in 1992, Yadunandan approaches the world of video games thanks to two sacred monsters like Diablo and above all Sonic, strictly in the Sega Saturn version. Ranging between consoles and PCs, he is particularly fond of platform titles and RPGs, not disdaining all other genres and moving in the constant search for the perfect balance between narration and interactivity.

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